How do local businesses get customers to (and through) the door? Driving online and foot traffic is (or should be) the bread-and-butter of every local business marketing strategy. There are many ways to achieve this goal, including (but not limited to) email lists, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).
The last item isn’t as tangible as sending out regular emails to customers or posting to social media, but it’s one of the most important ways to drive customers to your business. SEO is the process of getting to the top of search engine results pages for relevant keywords and phrases. For some businesses, this can be phrases like, “school backpacks for preschoolers” or “backyard grills.”
For local brick-and-mortar businesses, the focus on SEO results needs to be far more specific. After all, a person searching for flooring in Wisconsin isn’t going to contact a business in Ohio. For businesses with a specific target area (around their business or business location), local SEO is one of the top ways to ensure that local businesses are showing up in online user’s searches.
Statistics from Google, the most popular internet search engine, prove this marketing tactic to be successful:
- According to Google, “fifty percent of local consumers visit a store within a day of a local search.” (Search Engine Watch)
- “Google says these people are ready to buy once they are in a store, as 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to 7 percent for non-local searches.”
- Nearly 1/3 of all mobile searches involve location. (Google, 2016)
- More than half of smartphone users found a new company or product during a search on their smartphone. (Google, 2018)
Those statistics are based off of real online behaviors. When a person is looking for a product or service, they are going online to research products and businesses that provide the specific product or business. This could be an intensive process or an impulsive search online. Some of the research is done through voice search or typed-in keywords, phrases, and questions.
If a local business wants to be found in these searches, the business name and information needs to show up in search results. This can be in the form of tips and information, business-specific information, or lists of local businesses that provide a product or service (i.e. “restaurants near me,” “djs near me,” etc.) There are numerous ways business can show up in searches; this list is just the start of a business’ targeted local SEO efforts (for more technical local SEO, contact local SEO experts).
Claim a Google My Business listing.
Online visitors need businesses that provide products and services. They look for them online, either by typing in or asking questions. An article on Forbes estimated that an average of one billion voice searches occur every month.
In a Google searches, the businesses listed as answers in those searches are often pulled from Google My Business (GMB). GMB is an online directory of local businesses.
To be included in GMB, business can claim a free GMB listing. To verify the listing, businesses need to enter a code from a postcard that comes in the mail. Listings should be optimized and filled out completely for optimal results.
Add strategic content to your website.
High-quality, optimized content is a huge asset in local SEO. The content can answer questions or provide information relevant to searches about the product or service. Either way, the content must bring some value to the reader.
Years ago, this content would have to be 300 words and only text to be high in the rankings in Google. As search engines have evolved and the sheer amount of content has multiplied (exponentially), the stakes for content has skyrocketed.
Modern content needs to be optimized with keywords and topics relevant to online searches. This does NOT mean repeating keywords over and over, which is called “keyword stuffing” and is penalized by search engines. To be clear, the content not only needs to be optimized for search engines but also for the target audience. (Optimized content can be outsourced to professionals to get regular content that gets results.)
All content should contain images optimized for higher rankings in Google. These images should have relevant alt text and ideally would be a video that provides more value for the reader. While these images should be clear, they should not slow down page loading speed. Page loading speed is another Google ranking factor.
According to Google, when the time for a website page to load goes from one to three seconds, the chance of an online user leaving the website increases by 32%. That number almost triples, to 90%, when page loading speed goes from one to five seconds. The number increases to 106% when loading from one to six seconds. From one to 10 seconds, the chances of a bounce are a whopping 123%.
Claim directory and review site listings.
Research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision (Source: Search Engine Land). For this reason, business listings on review sites and online directories are a common result on search engine results pages (generated after a search).
Businesses should compile a list of online review sites and web directories relevant to their industry and claim listings on those sites. Every listing should have consistent information—even down to the abbreviations. The suite should be “Ste.” on every site, the same for “Rd.” and “Ave.”
These sites also play an integral part in building trust with potential customers. More than 70% of customers say positive reviews play a part in trusting a business. To earn those positive reviews, businesses should provide excellent customer service and make asking for reviews a standard part of the process. Every staff member should be trained to provide an excellent experience and ask satisfied customers for a positive review.
To make the process easy for the customer, businesses should look for opportunities to ask for reviews. This could include a link included in a follow-up email, a postcard included in a package, or an in-person ask from a salesman or technician.
Build a website with an optimized structure.
An optimized website is an integral part of every business’ SEO toolbox. To get high rankings on Googles, businesses must structure their website for search engines. In addition, an optimized website must load quickly, contain relevant keywords, never have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions, and contain no broken links.
Astoundingly, almost three-quarters of all Americans have a smartphone. The growing amount of smartphones should be a key part of every company’s marketing strategy. According to Google, almost half of all mobile users are frustrated by websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. This trend is reflected by Google, which include mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.